National LWV President’s Update

One year ago, in his State of the Union Address, President Obama announced that he was creating a Presidential Commission on Election Administration. The Commission was charged with exploring the reasons for long lines at the polls. Following on the heels of the 2012 Presidential Election and the efforts in states across the country to manipulate voter turnout by requiring restrictive ID, limiting early voting, purging registration lists, impinging on independent voter registration drives and loading ballots with lengthy initiatives, the Commission seemed to the League to be a weak response to a major issue.Yesterday, the Commission issued its report. Whatever skepticism the League articulated when the commission was formed, was all but swept away by the comprehensive nature of the report and its recommendations. The bipartisan Commission spent six months taking testimony from election officials, academics and organizations like the League. The League submitted a five-point reform agenda to the Commission and several state Leagues also weighed in with testimony for the PCEA. In the end, while the recommendations do not go so far as addressing the administrative barriers created by ever more restrictive voter photo ID especially in the implementation of online voter registration systems, the report takes a refreshing step back from the partisan political debate surrounding election administration to look at our diffuse system from the point of view of the voter.

Among the key recommendations: modernization of the registration process through expansion of online voter registration and expanded state collaboration in improving the accuracy of voter lists; measures to improve access to the polls through expansion of the period for voting before traditional Election Day and through selection of suitable, well equipped polling facilities; state-of-the art techniques to assure efficient management of polling places; and reforms of the standard-setting and certification process for new voting technology to address soon-to-be antiquated voting machines.

One important recommendation called for professionalizing election administration by insuring that the responsible department or agency in every state has on staff individuals chosen solely on the basis of experience and expertise. The report goes so far as to call for the creation of an academic track for election administrators similar to that for public administrators.

We know that the details of implementing these sorts of proposals will be very important and there is much work to be done at the state level to insure that our elections are free, fair and accessible to all, but the substance and tone of this report can do much to assist those efforts. We look forward to working with you in your states on implementation.  For now, it is great to get a boost on these important concepts in election reform. As we push to repair the Voting Rights Act and as we continue to advocate for state laws that protect every eligible voter, this report will be a very useful tool.

In League, Elizabeth